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INTERVIEW: It's a completely different way of life

Keeper coach Craig Wight on living and working abroad

17 November 2018

Having coached and managed in Finland, and worked and coached in America, new keeper coach Craig Wight was quick to point out that he wouldn’t change a thing having picked up a vast amount of experience on his travels so far.

“I would say to any coach, if you get any opportunity to coach abroad, you should definitely go,” he insisted. “Even if it’s for a short period of time, it will open up your horizons.

“When I played college soccer in America, we had one American in our whole squad of 25. The whole philosophy from the head coach was that because we had cultural diversity, we didn’t just have one way of solving problems, we had 25.

“It might not be a Scottish way or an English way, it might be a Cameroonian way or a Jamaican way. There will always be a way to solve problems if you come together as one group. Those sorts of experiences make you a better human being, which is what we all want at the end of the day.”

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But how does a Scottish-based coach get the opportunity to sample a completely different way of life in the first place?

“The move to Finland came out of the blue,” he said. “I went to college with the wife of the coach out there, and he messaged me and asked if I knew any goalkeeper coaches who would be interested.

“When he started talking about the set up over there, I just thought I fancied a bit of it. I don’t mind traveling around, and it opened up my horizons to new ways of thinking about things.

“If I hadn’t gone there, I certainly wouldn’t be standing here today because it opened up my thinking to different ways of looking at goalkeeping. It would have been easy to stay in my comfort zone in Scotland, or England, and keep doing the same things every single day.

“That’s why I think you should go if you get the chance. You might get there and realise it isn’t for you, but at least you’ve had a chance to look at it and take little bits of knowledge away with you.”

“When I was in Finland I was on an island in an archipelago between Sweden and Finland,” he told us. “It was a Swedish speaking part of Finland, and it was an autonomous region called the Oland Islands.

“Any away trip was either a 7 or 8 hour ferry journey to the main land, or a short two hour hop, depending on what we were doing for each specific game. We left on a Thursday and got back on a Tuesday for most away trips.

“I really enjoyed it. It’s a completely different way of life there. They are very laid back and they don’t get stressed about anything. If you think about Kimi Raikkonen, that is exactly how Finnish people are.

“It’s black and white, there are no grey areas. They do things how they do things, and you either take it or you don’t. Some of it was very enjoyable, there were other bits that were a little bit strange, which I won’t mention on camera! For the most part it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I don’t speak any Finnish, I speak bits of Swedish, but that’s about it.”

But what about the standard of football?

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to any league in any country, but going over there certainly opened my eyes to how insular we are in the UK in terms of thinking our football is the best,” he said. “When I played with the men’s team for IFK Marieham, we played a team in Norway called Odds BK from Norway.

“I’d guess not many people reading this will know who they are, I didn’t know who they were, but when we watched a video of their Europa League campaign the year before we played them, they were 3-0 up against Borussia Dortmund after 15 minutes. Now that’s a decent standard.

“The standard of the Finnish players in the Finnish league blew me away. It maybe doesn’t get any respect, but there are some very talented players in that league. It opens your mind to the fact that the other leagues all over the world are very good.”

“When you see Scottish teams in the Europa League, for example, you’ll often see them get battered off teams from places like Lithuania and Israel that nobody has ever heard of,” he continued. “What we don’t ever do is give them any credit for how good their teams are. When you’re actually there and see the standard, it’s another level.

“We played Legia Warsaw in the Champions League and got absolutely battered home and away. In the away leg they had something daft like 75% possession. In their next game they played Astana, who play in the Kazakhstan Premier League, which is another level up.

“We watched that game as a team and we had a laugh because Astana had 80% possession. If we’d got through to play them we’d have been lucky to get a kick at all. The more time you spend watching different levels of football across Europe, the more it opens your eyes to how good the standards are. I don’t think we give it enough credit in this country.”

So joining Carlisle United, who face regular hikes to the likes of Exeter, Yeovil and Crawley, will do little to trouble this regular traveller.

“Moaning about journey distances simply doesn’t factor with me,” he said. “Even coming to work - put a bit of Radio 2 on in the car and we’re all good to go.

“You get Steve Wright in the afternoon with some fun facts. There was one the other day where I found out that in the State of Utah, and only in Utah, it’s illegal to wear a hat at a public event or theatre that obscures the view of someone sitting behind you.

“See, I wouldn’t know that if I hadn’t needed to make the journey to Carlisle!”

Click HERE to watch an interview with Craig Wight on iFollow United now.

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